A Twist Of Fate
April, 2007 Entries

Back To Current Blog Entries
Bottom Of Page

(04/30/07 - 7:06 PM)
I finished "Cities Of Gold" by Douglas Preston today. This is one of his three early works that were non-fictional in nature (as opposed to his fantastic fictional work that post-dates it.) I really had no idea what to expect, but nothing prepared me for what I was about to read.

First, let me say that I haven't read a piece of non-fiction this compelling since "Undaunted Courage" by Stephen Ambrose - and this includes David McCullough's much-touted "1776" - a compelling novel in its own right.

This was damn near a four-star book, with the exception being that I just couldn't classify this and Ambrose's work in the same breath. Again though - it was extremely close.

This book recounts the journey of Fransisco Vasquez de Coronado (just 'Coronado' to you and I) from Mexico to the fabled seven cities of Cibola (of which there were actually only six) - the ancient "Cities of Gold".

Preston decided that he wouldn't just write about it - he wanted to relieve this epic journey, and intersperse the historical with the personal. And it made for a fantastic read.

I learned a great deal about the Native Americans of the Southwest - their compassion and their tyranny - and gained a wealth of knowledge that I heretofore knew nothing or very little about.

I think the most powerful passage closes the narrative - with good reason. It is a quotation from a chief of the Dwamish tribe speaking to a Governor of Washington Territory:

"It matters little where we pass the remnant of our days. They will not be many. A few more moons; a few more winters - and not one of the descendants of the mighty hosts that once moved over this broad land or lived in happy homes, protected by the Great Spirit, will remain to mourn over the graves of a people once more powerful and hopeful than yours. But why should I mourn at the untimely fate of my people? Tribe follows tribe, and nation follows nation, like the waves of the sea. It is the order of nature, and regret is useless. Your time of decay may be distant, but it will surely come, for even the White Man whose God walked and talked with him as friend with friend, cannot be exempt from the common destiny. We may be brothers after all. We will see."

What an astoundingly astute observation from someone so very long ago - and one that proves more true as each year passes. Truly, we are doomed to a similar fate as the Native Americans. And, perhaps more striking - we ourselves may once again be the enemies that initiate the downfall. Truly, we have now become our own worst enemy.

I highly recommend this book for several reasons:

  • It is interesting
  • In and of itself, it contains loads of knowledge about where America began
  • It is well written
  • It will make you reconsider everything you think you know - about Native Americans certainly, but about yourself as well.

(04/29/07 - 10:06 AM)
Wanda starts her new job tomorrow - yay!

I was hoping - HOPING - that her former employer might sit up and take note of why she was leaving so that she might make adjustments to her management style (a very weak style) and therefore hire - and retain - quality employees in the future for her own good.

This was not to be. Instead, she treated Wanda like a pariah. Instead of a cake (which even the crappiest outgoing employees had received in the past on their last day, with a card and a friendly 'so-long') Wanda got a pissy, menopausal troll who pointedly asked her what time she would be coming in next Saturday - to help her out.

Now, as I've said before - I am no management genius. But I have learned a few things. Some employees, like Wanda, have no motivation not to go elsewhere if the need arises. Why? Because there is nothing stopping them from getting a job in a matter of hours. When you are that skilled, the world is your oyster; the check, waiting to be written. What makes employees like my wife different is that she has morals, scruples, and an inhuman work ethic bordering on perfectionism. She is, in no uncertain terms, an employer's dream come true.

So, why do people like her boss insist upon treating her like this? The woman has two employees who are more adept at MySpace than Microsoft Word, that she simply ignores while they fleece her and do nothing. Yet, every action that my wife performs is scrutinized to the point of incomprehension.

Now, one thing I will say is that my higher compensated employees do carry higher expectations than my lower ones. BUT - I treat those employees with the respect that their station in life deserves. I respect their amazing abilities and I am astute enough to realize that if I treat them as they wish to be treated, I will yield amazing results. If I treat them like crap, I will yield nothing positive.

While this seems like a simple - and logical - lesson, her employer just doesn't seem to get it. Wanda is amiable, while the bad emoployees are not. This leads me to only one conclusion - her boss is afraid of the other two, so she hides from their ineptitude because it is simpler than dealing with it. While Wanda, who is approachable, is handled with an iron fist, perhaps bearing the brunt of the frustration with the other two as an outlet merely because she is convenient, and will take it.

What in the hell is this woman thinking? She put her head in the sand for so long, that Wanda finally threw up her hands and said, "Enough." Now she's leaving, and her employer will be forced to deal with the two employees she hid behind Wanda in the past. And her only outlet is a remaining good employee (who is already seeking other employment). My prediction? Michelle, you are in for it - run. This is a woman who doesn't have the common sense to control - or aim - her emotions, and you will be an easy target.

Is there a seminar for managers who are their own worst enemies?

(04/28/07 - 11:53 PM)
Let's talk for a moment about the weather.

Yeah - let's not. Why - WHY - is the weather something that everyone instinctively talks about? I don't care if it's supposed to be nice tomorrow. I don't care if it rained in Minnesota last week. Why? Who cares!

I actually cringe and become angry when people talk about the weather - a bizarre reaction, I'll grant you. It's wholly illogical for me to react in such a manner, but I do anyway.

I think that it's because I just hate wasting even a second. If I'm working, I'd rather continue doing so than hear your opinions about the rain and what it might do to your lawn. I have an inherent need to either be entertained, to learn something, or to be otherwise stimulated by a conversation. If none of these criteria can be met, then I probably don't care.

Callous? Probably. But at least I admit it, and don't pretend. God, I am one tough hombre to please.

(04/27/07 - 10:48 PM)
It's been a slow week at work, and no one has blown up any bathroom fixtures, so I'm calling that a win.

My biggest beef this week is with my Webb operator. This is the guy who, while I was on vacation, told my boss that he didn't come in on Thursday (the day before his Good Friday Holiday) because I had given him the time off, as his brother was in town.

Now, the problem with this was that I had done no such thing. Yet, here he was, placing culpability on myself. There are forms and approvals that go hand in hand with taking time off - and he knows this - yet these forms did not exist, nor had they been approved. But he chose to take that route - and I got a grilling about what in the hell I was thinking about letting a guy take a day off at just a word - without telling anyone.

Now I took this pretty well, on the whole. Yeah, I was shocked as hell but I let it pass. Nothing this guy does surprises me anymore.

So, on Thursday of this week - when he punched out for lunch at 10:44 and never returned or called, I wasn't all that shocked. And when his wife called in the next morning at 6:30 - when he knew management wasn't in the building yet - and said that he wouldn't be in that day, without citing a reason, I knew he was stupid like a fox.

Then, I learn from a confidential source on the floor that it might just be his birthday today. Oh, indeed? And that he might have mentioned this to said co-worker, while letting him know that he was taking Friday off because of it.

So my employee (the closest thing to a true company man I have on my floor) asks, "Gee, we're on 50-hour weeks - so you must be working on Saturday then?"

"Nah," the employee said.

Who in the hell do these guys think they are? I'm walking amongst a sea of proverbial prima-donna's who think that life is all about doing whatever they want. What happened to company men? Men who worked in symbiosis with fair-minded bosses to make the company - and therefore themselves - money?

This is the same guy who disappeared for three and a half months over a summer without so much as a phone call - returned or otherwise. How can he get away with this crap?

The answer, painful though it might be, is simple: Skilled labor of this caliber is nearly as extinct as the dodo - and so we have to be much more flexible as managers than we should have to in order to reatain that labor and make money. They are so skilled, that they know that in a matter of hours they can find another high-paying job somewhere else that is probably almost as good, and that drives them to risk everything at the drop of a hat without fear of consequences.

Thank God they don't posess nuclear weapons.

>SIGH< It's impossible to manage that which manages itself.

(04/26/07 - 11:07 PM)
I went to visit my dad and stepmother this week, and learned that she had finally retired, and that my father was due to do so on June first.

Now, I ran a gamut of emotions in a very short period of time - jealousy, glee, anger. I was happy for them, I was jealous for me, and I was angry for my mother.

Mom and Dad both work hard - extremely hard - perhaps even harder than I. And while I'm a mere thirty-something, they are far older - and I can't imagine doing the work that they do at their age. It would be tough, to say the least.

While I don't begrudge my father his right to retire - he's certainly earned it with all of his hard work and investing - I do feel bad that my Mom, who stayed at home to raise us and didn't get what amounted to a whole lot out of the divorce (a divorce that wasn't her fault), still has to work her tail off while making jokes about living with us in the future.

I know that she's kidding, yet as someone intelligently pointed out: Whenever anyone says their kidding, subconsciously they are often saying just what they mean, and hoping that you won't be offended.

I just wish there were some equitable way for them BOTH to be able to retire, and to not have my mother be on the losing end of things once more.

I'm just wondering: where is the balance - and justice - in that?

(04/25/07 - 11:42 PM)
I don't want to jinx it, but we might have a line on another house to flip. I got all excited almost immediately - even though it's summer and I swore I wouldn't do another one in summer, or so soon. Jeez, I'm a sucker.

Ironically, I had been toying with doing another one anyway based of something my partner, Paul, had said to me the other day. Once I parsed it out, I realized that he was saying, "I'm ready to do another one - you just let me know when.". Once I figured this out, all I could think was, "Dude, you're nuts."

Apparently, I'm nuts also, because I've been thinking quite a bit about it. Some day, I would like to do this for a living - I think.

(04/24/07 - 10:27 PM)
Bob Morris - take three. Paydirt! I finished "Bermuda Schwartz" and the aforementioned predictability vanished in this one, and that was my only real hang up. Still a page turner, still outstanding pacing - but no predictability! I was actually surprised to some degree when I got to the end (not super-surprised - but I hadn't figured out the end this time either.)

Bob, you're a hell of an author - you're no Rowling or Gibson - but you're certainly a better diversion than most, storyline or no.

(04/23/07 - 11:42 PM)
Bob Morris - take two. I finished "Jamaica Me Dead", his second book and my thoughts remain the same - predictable, but somehow a page turner nonetheless.

I see big things for this guy, if only he can tighten up his storylines and obscure the ending a bit better.

(04/22/07 - 11:32 PM)
I found me a new author - no small task with as picky as I have become of late. His name is Bob Morris, and he writes in much the same vein as Carl Hiaasen and Tim Dorsey (if there's any more of these guys out there, I simply must find them.)

I finished his first book, "Bahamarama" which proved a bit predictable - BUT - I was compelled to turn pages. I have no idea why, but this book flew by. I think it is simply Mr. Morris' ability to spin a tight story with great pacing. And that alone makes this book one to read. Yes, the plot is a little flaky - and predictable - but it still works.

(04/21/07 - 10:49 AM)
Let's talk once more about Carl Hiaasen! I'm finishing "Tourist Season", which was his first solo novel. It started out painfully slow, but the pace began to move along at about page one-hundred. It's not his best work, but at least the writing is far cleaner and more appropriately done than his second novel.

This book feels like what it is - Hiaasen getting his legs for the bigger things to come. I'm glad that I didn't read it first, as it may have turned me off to a great author. Conversely, it is disappointing to have such high expectations met only half-way.

Can I recommend this book? For the Hiaasen fan, it is a must. For anyone else, start with "Double Whammy" and work your way from there.

(04/20/07 - 11:44 PM)
I don't think that I have OCD, but I am beginning to question some of my "stressers". What I mean is that, if anything - great or small - remains undone, I have anxiety. If my mail is unopened, I can't rest until it's open, and sorted, and shredded and filed. And if several of these things exist, I'm a nervous wreck.

Also, I have to have everything in my work areas in a certain order - and geometric pattern - in order to be calm. If I come into my work area, and it is out of order in any way, I could be on fire but not notice until order was restored.

Is there a medical term for this? And why am I so nuts about these things? I mean, if I know that my garbage is getting full in the kitchen, I stress about it until it's changed. My driveway needs re-coating, but I can't get it done for another week - yet I obsess about it as though the world were ending anyway. I'm sitting here, looking at an unused L.L. Bean gift card, and it's gnawing at me like its restaurant-cousin on the table in the next room. I feel compelled to use them, and every moment that I do not I have anxiety. This is the kind of crap that I'm talking about - what the heck is that about?

It ruins alot of perfectly good time to relax, and I can only equate it to my working life - demanding self-perfection - spilling over into my home life. And it sucks.

(04/19/07 - 10:24 PM)
Metallurgical & Heat Treatment Seminar - I've got your attention now, haven't I! Yeah, it was as boring as it sounds, I guess. I got sent to this thing because I deal with this stuff on a daily basis, and we as a machine shop like to stay on the cutting edge of everything in the hopes that our competition won't - and usually, they don't. In alot of ways, we're somewhat ahead of the curve.

But, you don't care about that - and I don't want to talk about it - BORING!

Amidst all of the PowerPoint slides of perlite becoming nodular martensite, there were a few gems of humor. Three to be exact.

Chapter One: Noah Rides Again:
I had to use the little metallurgists room on one of our breaks. I was using the vertical, while another individual had fired up his rectal pulse-cannon in the horizontal next to mine. He grunted, groaned, popped, and pa-whooted his way to a succesful finish - Lucky me! I heard him get up, and flush.

Then, the water came - and came and came and came. It was a quarter-inch high wall coming right for my feet just about the time that I decided that, hey, I had probably peed enough. I beat a hasty retreat, just as I heard the guy - still in his stall - say one thing:


Chapter Two: Customers Are Always Right - But They're Not Always Smart:
I realized that I was the only guy from a machine shop in this seminar. The majority of the fellows here were engineers, and heat treaters - with a small smattering of buyers thrown in for whatever reason (even I didn't get that.) I noticed during check in that two guys were from one of my customers' places that was undergoing some major changes in the form of Kanban and lean manufacturing due to a new guy being brought in from John Deere. When lunch rolled around, I watched where they sat, and serruptitiously asked if I may sit with them. And then I just listened.

And they talked. They talked about how stupid everyone was that they worked for. How dumb all the new stuff was that their new boss was doing, and how their subcontracting agent was trying to inexpertly, "Farm out anything that wasn't nailed down for outside manufacturing."

This is probably true - I've been quoting my brains out for this guy and I'm questioning his ability to do his job well, predominantly due to the fact that he's trying to have people on the outside manufacture complete mission-critical components for which there is no formal routing - only what we call "tribal knowledge" in the business. This means that ol' Bob on the manufacturing floor probably knows how to make that batch of $30,000 parts correctly, but no one else will. Oh, and did I mention that each job requires a special tool - a $4,000 or so special tool - that they already have, but that they want us to reproduce in order to make the components? I'm pretty sure that I mentioned that...

Suffice it to say, I kept my mouth shut - even as I ate! - I'm amazing like that. They eventually got up, and that left just me and another fellow from company-unknown sitting at the table. I just couldn't resist, so I turned to the remaining dude and I said, "It's amazing, listening to your customers talk about their company, and a situation that you're directly involved in while sitting with them, unnoticed."

He grinned with me, and responded, "Some people just don't know when to keep their mouths shut, do they?"

No, sir - no they do not. And I'm happy about that - because I can.

Chapter Three: Nicely Dressed People Need Not Apply:
This seminar occured in a facility in Rockford, specifically geared to manufacturing seminars and furthering manufacturing theories and knowledge. It was a place that I had not been before, and even I admit that to the uninitiated it was a bit confusing to figure out. But nothing prepared me for this...

We were on a break, and about 100 relatively nicely dressed individuals were milling about the facility (not top hat and tails, but picture the generic idea of an engineer in your mind, and you get the idea - golfers, sans the clubs and dexterity). About fifteen or twenty of these guys (and one gal) were loosely clustered in the foyer, when an OLDER gentleman walks in, and begins asking the nearest one for directions.

The gentleman responded very kindly, "I'm sorry, sir - I don't work here."

Unperturbed, the gentleman moved on to the next person he saw - another attendee - and asked the same question.

This gentleman responded very kindly as well, "I'm sorry, sir - I don't work here."

I could hear the man apologize once again, and I figured he'd figured things out by now.

Not so, as I heard him ask the next individual for directions.

Now, this guy got smart finally, and said, "Actually sir, we're all attending a seminar. None of us work here."

I hope that I'm not quite that thick when I get to be older.

One other thing - ME ME ME is DULL DULL DULL - remember this statement. It's a cold hard fact - ninety times out of one hundred, no one gives a crap about what you like. Especially if they are a captive audience trying to learn something, and you happen to be a Russian guy who wants to talk about every tangential experience he has had at every past job that he has peformed.

And this lends itself to life as well. It's fine to talk about yourself - if someone truly wants to know. But temper this - use facts without unecessary elaboration, and remember that in order to be considered polite, you must be reciprocal in your queries of the other individual in the conversation. Consider this point when speaking - how much do you really want to hear about boll-weevils and cotton farming? If the answer is 'not much', then don't drone on about your nudist colony - unless asked to do so.

Until the next conference, dear readers!

(04/18/07 - 11:32 PM)
What is the deal with these Uber-colds and -viruses of late? Good Lord, I am almost never sick in any meaningful way, and BAM! - I've had two whoppers - one bacterial and one viral - in the last month.

On Monday, I wasn't feeling well at work, and I just plodded through the day. I got home, and felt progressively worse, eventually coming to the realization that a fever was settling in. I figured, okay - let's fire up the "self-cleaning" option on the Heath-Z-Bake oven and burn this baby out. Who knew I was in for a temperature that could have cooked waffles in 90-seconds flat?

So, Wanda kept piling on the blankets - and still I froze. Three blankets, a comforter and some pillows later, I finally stopped freezing, but that was about it. Then the hyperventilation and heavy shuddering - not shivering, shuddering - began. Woo-hoo! Now we were cooking - literally!

So, I figure - this will pass. Then the delusions began, and that was just plain weird. I won't go into detail, but suffice it to say I was uneccesarily worried about the snap-on hard corner (which doesn't exist) on the BMW kickstand knuckle that we manufacture - especially when the public hugged it to their face when it was giant. See? Makes perfect sense!

By about 1:00 AM my body was all baked out, and the sweat glands turned back on en-masse. Woo-hoo! Now we have discomfort!

All night I tossed and turned, weak and hurty, simultaneously parsing and rationalizing my fever in my head subconsciously (apparently, it was still around, because it had not entirely relinquished control of my brain.)

Then, in the morning, I did the unthinkable. I got up, and got all ready for work. And at 8:30, I called in sick after a three-year perfect streak. >SIGH<. And that just pissed me off, because I HATE taking sick days. *(I managed to still work 46 hours that week, but still...)

My employees were shocked, but several came to me to thank me. Thank me? For taking a sick day? Yep. When I asked why, they said, "No offense man, but you set the bar way too high. We were beginning to wonder if you were human."

(04/17/07 - 11:39 PM)
Wanda got a new job!

What strikes me as astounding - and I mean astounding - is that she was passively seeking one. BUT - she's gotten four calls from people "headhunting" her in the last two weeks - UNSOLICITED calls. God, how great is this woman that people are seeking her out?

She took an interview with a firm in South Beloit, that does much the same type of law that she is doing now, and the office is a relaxed and fun atmosphere full of what appear to be highly-compenent and well-paid (and benefitted!) individuals. They know quality, and don't have time for anything else (my kind of employer - will you hire me?) And even with the high figure that she named, they did not hesitate to take her on - not for a second. The job was hers two minutes into the interview.

Damn, I wish I had that kind of clout. You go, woman!

So, now her boss is freaking out and offering her anything she wants - money, fame, cars, women - er, men. You get the picture. Ironically, the only reason she is leaving is because she has two fellow employees who are not even good enough to call boat anchors within the business who sit around all day producing single-digit percentages of what Wanda and the good employee do while MySpace-ing and IM-ing all day. The owner's response to Wanda's repeated pleas - as the Office Manager - to get rid of them was, in a nutshell, "I don't want to pay them unemployment. You do their jobs, and babysit them."

The poor kid tried valiantly to make this situation work, but when one of her good employees left, and the other was actively seeking employment elsewhere because of this imbalanced environment (as well as Wanda's bosses penchant to belittle anyone within a three-mile radius), Wanda could see the writing on the wall. And no amount of money is worth a Management position that you cannot manage - and a Boss who puts her head in the sand every time something of substance requires a decision.

I am not a perfect manager, but I offer this advice:

BE DECISIVE - If you're right 80% of the time, call it a win. Often, managing is simply about making a decision - any decision.

MAKE DEPOSITS AS WELL AS WITHDRAWLS - If you compliment employees when they deserve it, it makes it easier to chastise them when they also deserve it. It is much like a bank account - put things in, and you can take them out. Take them out only, and soon your account is worthless.

LISTEN TO YOUR EMPLOYEES - Even if you disagree with them, listen to what they have to say. And then ask yourself why they are telling you this. Is there a deeper meaning? What is their motivation? Chances are, your business will benefit - even if only in a small way.

SEEK PERSPECTIVE - Don't decide that you know everything and that everyone around you is stupid - let them prove it. Remember that perspective changes everything. There is a story that talks of a man on a subway, with two rowdy children. He ignored to children's antics, as the other passengers grew more and more agitated. They were in the right - so why couldn't this guy parent? So, one of the passengers finally has had enough and tells the guy off. The guy apologizes, and mentions that they are coming from the hospital where the childrens' mother - his wife - has just died. And he hadn't found a good way to tell them just yet, and was thinking deeply about his loss - who is in the wrong now? It's all about perspective. As a manager, you must gain perspective to manage well.

DON'T WASTE ASSETS - If you have a positive personnel asset, do everything to keep it. If you have a negative personnel asset, do everything that you can to purge yourself of it - they are like a cancer and their actions can disease the entire staff. Cut off the leg, to save the body if necessary.

But, I digress. Good for you Wanda! You made a great decision, and you made it at a perfect time. I know it was difficult, but I'm proud of you.

And to Michelle, I say, "Hang in there - your day is coming. And remember this: you now hold 52 cards in your hand - while Mary has but the two jokers. Oh, and possibly the 'Rules for Draw and Stud Poker' card - I haven't seen that one in a while, so I'm figuring she's got it, or Wanda's bogarting it."

(04/16/07 - 11:18 PM)
Over the weekend, I put a 4-port USB hub into one of our Vertical Machining Centers (a big machine with a computer attached that makes keen things out of metal.) I got finished, and having taken the machine from a two-floppy to a single-floppy configuration, I wanted to make sure that there wasn't a jumper somewhere to offset to let the machine know what I had done. No such luck, and - sure enough - the computer got confused. No big deal - one of the service techs was coming the next morning for something else, and I would just ask him then.

So the morning rolls around, and some guy I've never met before wrangles on in. I proceed to explain the problem to him, and he just opens the computer cabinet on the machine. Now, bear in mind that this thing is under full power - the machine and the computer - and the machine is high voltage.

So he assesses the problem, and I outline my theories about the problem - I've got a dual-port floppy cable, using single port now, and no visible jumper to shunt the second drive to "OFF". Is there something in the BIOS perhaps?, I ask.

What happens next, is almost unbelievable. He says, "You probably just put the cable in upside down."

Now, I'm not mad at this point. People who don't know what they're doing do dumb things all the time. And this guy doesn't know me. So I very calmly explain that there are usually two defenses against doing just that in your typical computer:

  • There is a "bump" on one side of the cable that has to mate to a notch in order to plug in or
  • There is a nulled pin hole that can only go in one way

In this case, it is the prior.

He shrugs, and starts pulling live cables from the drives - while the power is on. "Nope," he says, "You've got it plugged in right. Maybe if we try the other port on the cable."

"I did that," I say. "And we should probably power the machine down before you start unplugging and plugging cables, don't you think?"

"Nah," he says. "Maybe we can turn the cable around 180°.

Now I'm thinking - This guy is going to destroy my machine while I watch. "No, you can't do that. The pinning is something like a 24 to 36 pinning - meaning that only one end of the cable will accept the side from the controller and one will accept the pinning on the floppy."

As I'm saying this, he's doing it anyway - and trying to ram a 24-pin onto a 36-pin. Yeeps!

I begin re-iterating before he destroys something, but to no avail. Then I ask once more, "Is there something in the BIOS perhaps? I know that that is rare, but I don't see a jumper for the floppy controller."

Now he stops, looks me right in the eye, and says, "What are you? Some sort of computer guy?"

Now I'm pissed. I'm trying to solve a simple problem with my mind, and he's using trial and error from the "Stupid School of Engineering", and now he's condescending. Lovely!

I very humbly say, "Well, I have built one or two in my day, I suppose. I'm just thinking that it's a simple solution if we think about it for a minute."

He did think about it for a minute. Then he gave his answer, "You just shorted something out while you were in there. You probably blew out the motherboard."

Oh man. Now I'm prepared to eviscerate this guy while he watches himself die - but I can't. I wasn't the one swapping cables where they didn't belong while the machine was hot only moments ago. And the motherboard is FINE, because it's WORKING.

Then the guy says, "Well, just try another floppy cable. If that doesn't work, you'll have to get a new motherboard."

So I gracefully tell the guy that, no - I don't have to get anything - the machine is still brand-spanking new and under warranty. As soon as I say this, I can see the wheels turning in his head. I think it went something like this:
'This guy is stupid. He broke his own machine because, unlike me, he doesn't know what he's doing. But now he thinks it might be me. But that's crazy - I'm an expert!'

So, I told him just to leave it. I would fix it myself. What I meant was, "I'm going to go call your boss now and read him the riot act based of your behavior in the last three minutes. Then he's going to pay to fix this."

This is where the punchline comes in, folks. I call his boss, and explain that his tech has broken about four cardinal rules of computer repair in the timespan of one minute.

To which he replies, "Are you sure? That guy owned his own computer business for five years! And the setting is in the BIOS - he knows that; we do this all the time."

I wonder why he doesn't own his own business anymore...

(04/15/07 - take two - 09:20 PM)
Finished "Obsession" by Jonathan Kellerman (see below) - my summary still seems on the mark.

On a more positive note, I also finished "Johnny And The Bomb" by Terry Pratchett, the third - and final - installment in the Johnny Maxwell Trilogy. For my money, it is the weakest of the three books, but it was sound in its own right, nonetheless. The premise is overdone, but as a book geared toward the younger set, I think it hits its mark well. These books were some of Pratchett's earlier, pre-Discworld works, which have been re-issued in the U.S. in the last year or so in Hardcover.

On the whole, the premises of the previous two books - "Only You Can Save Mankind" and "Johnny And The Dead" were more interesting, plot-wise - but I recommend reading the whole lot, nonetheless.

It is - after all - Pratchett: The single best-selling living author.

(04/15/07 - 11:20 AM)
I have a Levelor cellular shade in my basement, that cost $80.00 American. I have had it for 52 months, and it exploded. I am disappointed - I loved this blind, and I had taken great care to make it a perfect fit within my window aperture so that my wall appeared in some ways seamless. Oh well.

So, I went to the local orange box store to purchase a new blind. I measured - twice - and rather than leaving the sizing in the hands of anyone but lil' old me, I asked the lady doing the cutting to cut it EXACTLY at 70 1/4" to fit my window aperture. So, she removes her tape measure, and the niblet flies off. She stares at it on the floor, as though it might somehow mystically return to her, and then gives up, kicking it away. I should have known right then and there that this would not go well.

So, she tries to measure the blind with her now debilitated tape measure. I attempt to help her by showing her a little trick I like to call "moving up to the next inch to get an accurate measurement", and she seems to grok - seems to - she isn't speaking a whole lot, just a lot of nods.

So she does her little measurement, followed by the slot-machine pull on the blind cutter. That done, she places the now shorter blind back in the tube, and off I go.

Now, I know better than to just leave - I know that I should run to the nearest tool aisle and fine me a tape measure that isn't a recent niblet-amputee to make certain that she did as I asked - but for some strange reason, I experienced a momentary faith in humanity.

So, we get the little bugger home, and - lo and behold - it's all of 68 11/16" long. How is this even CLOSE to 70 1/4"?


So, now I have two problems:

  • I'm really lazy
  • I have to convince someone at the store that it was employee error - and not stupid shopper guy

So, I run back to the store, and for some reason they refund without question. So far, so good.

Then, I go to get a new blind from a woman that I can only describe as "a walking white-trash stereotype", and I find myself compelled to tell my tale. I am motivated to make certain that these people know that I am not a retard who can't measure.

To my surprise, the woman looks at me, gives a half smile, and says, "I'm not surprised whatsoever. But I'm keeping my mouth shut."

So, if this is an ongoing problem, who is addressing the fact that an employee is mutilating blinds at $80.00 a crack?


(04/14/07 - 11:04 PM)
I started reading Jonathan Kellerman's newest novel "Obsession", and I have some general comments.

As I was re-writing my novel, I read tons of books on what not to do to give any editor ammunition to discard your manuscript. And then I made a startling discovery - many of the authors that I read not only do these things that they shouldn't - they get away with it.

This leads me to only one conclusion:
When you have paid your dues, you can get away with just about anything you want, and no one cares. Pacing off? No Problem! Echoes? Why not! Syllable pile-ups? So what! Contractions, missing commas? A piffle thing!

Getting back to my original point: this new book of his - in this light - is way beyond sloppy. It's plot is trite to the point of being unbelievable (at 200-pages in, I feel confident in saying this), the dialogue is telling dialogue - not true dialogue. It tells a story and is not indicative of true conversation - a big no-no.

I hope that if I ever do get published, I won't ever produce something that feels so phoned in.

Shame on you, Jonathan. This feels like the work of James Patterson - and that is pure lowest common denominator. You're better than that.

(04/14/07 - 10:21 PM)
No major complaints.


(04/13/07 - 9:04 PM)
Yes - yes, I am aware that it is Friday the thirteenth. OoOoOoOo... spooky.

God, if I had a nickel for every yutz that asked me this every time this day rolls around, I would have enough Jeffersons to fill a sock - with which I could then beat them senseless, so that they would stop asking this question.

The only plus, is that I get to call everyone on it (which is kind of fun).

I ask, "Why is today so bad? Do you even know?"

And no one thus far ever has.

So, I'll let you all in on the secret - as best as I can remember it:
In 1047 (I think) the then-Pope got cheesed with the Knights Templar of the day, and decided that he would rather they not be alive anymore. So, he had something like 10,000 of them killed on October 13th, and that was a shitty day all around if you were - or had been - a Templar.

Jinkies - mystery solved.

I also like to ask, "Oh! We're your relatives Templars?" when I'm feeling particularly annoyed.

So, unless you've pissed off the Pope, or are a Templar planning to, you have my permission to kick all the black cats that you want while walking under ladders and spilling salt.

Go ahead - knock yourself out.

(04/11/07 - 11:21 PM)
Is anyone else checking out "Planet Earth" on The Discovery Channel? I flipped to this to kill some time, and found it to be mesmerizing.

I'm not normally a fan of nature shows, but this one takes the cake. You can actually see the dedication that the creators had as you watch this - and that is a rare trait.

The visuals are stunning, and are so unique as to be revolutionary. And Sigourney Weaver - unbelievably - pulls off the role of narrator in strong fashion.

There are eleven, one-hour episodes in the series and I have yet to watch a bad one. Check it out!

(04/10/07 - 11:49 PM)
Robins are stupid.

Let me elaborate:
Robins are really, really stupid. The Dodo (who got himself killed) and the Booby and the Titmouse have nothing on this ugly-ass bird.

First question: How can a bird become road kill? I know that it can happen occasionally, but I'm seeing Robin-pancakes all over the place like orange road cones that no one heeds. And I'm constantly hitting my brakes, because instead of heeding their fight-or-flight survival instincts, they seem to want to take one last peek at the Subaru bearing down upon them. What gives?

Is there an avian-suicide gene that I'm not aware of? I mean, I'm no ornithologist, but c'mon.

Also, they're ugly. Maybe that's it - maybe they're sad because they're homely.

And that leads me to another question:
Who in the hell decided that the robin was "red, red" and that it bobbed? I have witnessed neither trait in all my years, so what the heck? Why immortalize such an ugly bird?

Maybe the songwriter was concerned as I am - that Robin's are ugly, and are committing suicide because of it - and he wanted to make them feel good.

That, or he realized that we're inherently stupid, and he could make a few bucks. Either way, he succeeded.

(04/09/07 - 11:43 PM)
I finished Carl Hiassen's second solo novel Double Whammy today. While not his best work, it wasn't half bad. You can definately feel him getting his bearings with his characters, and it probably only feels clunky because his later works are so damn good.

This book - amazingly - manages to zing the professional bass fishing industry and televangelists at the same time. This is no small feat, but it's funny as hell.

Also, his writing style here breaks many - if not all - of the rules (refer to 04/13 for more information) but in a good way. He writes the way that I wish I could - but cannot, as I need editors to see something flawless (while he has the luxury of being famous).

Can I recommend this book? Yep. I recommend anything this man writes - so far.

(04/08/07 - 9:04 AM)
After I-don't-know how many hours (from Saturday to Friday, it was 12-17 a day, less Tuesday, because I had to mow my lawn) I have finally completed revision six of my book - whew! My minor tweaking turned into a colossal re-write - with great results.

First of all, I would like to thank the first editor who graciously bowed out without hurting my feelings six years ago - I see why now, and you did me a huge favor. In six years, my skills have sharpened exponentially, and I have a better product because of it.

That being said, I'm nearly ready to get the new editor involved - and see the process through.

I just never want to type again - I've typed and read so much over and over again in the last week, that I now find myself narrating my own life, using words I normally wouldn't, and - honest to God - re-writing sentences in my dreams (Scout's honor.)

Welp, I managed to take the whole week off - without even thinking about work! The downside? I worked all week anyway - at least it felt like it. Also, each day seemed to take about - oh, say - four minutes.

(04/07/07 - 9:54 AM)
When my brother got married (last summer), we got to meet many of his close friends. Among them was one of his "groomsmen" named Amy. Amy was in the process of moving to Michigan to begin a professorship, and as such was forced to liquidate a great many pieces of her art that had accumulated over the years.

We chose a rather large piece, with rather strange subject matter, without either of us being sure why exactly. She was very pleased about this, as she had an attachment to the piece, and wanted it to go to a good home.

It sat in our basement, us not knowing quite what to do with it - until yesterday.

We decided to see what it would look like in our kitchen, just for the hell of it and - WOW. It looks like it was made for that spot. It has done nothing but caught my attention since we put it up, and already I'm kicking myself for not having done it earlier.

So, I would like to once again thank Amy (www.amysacksteder.com) for the painting - it's found it's good home.

(04/06/07 - 11:37 AM)
We are having Thanksgiving at my wife's aunt's house (she's graciously decided to cook everything - WOW.) Anyway, her son went to pick up the turkey from my brother-in-law.

He told him, "I'm here for the ham."

To which my brother-in-law replied, "Don't you mean turkey?"

Her son then said, "What's the difference - they're both birds."

This is only true:
A.) at a Pink Floyd concert or
B.) In Homer Simpson's dreams

Nick, you have made my day.

(04/05/07 - 11:53 PM)
*See below.

(04/04/07 - 11:47 PM)
Typed 'til my eyes hurt.

(04/03/07 - 2:47 PM)
I picked up my lawnmower today from its annual tune up, and the lawnmower guy tells me - "Dude, you have to stop mowing rocks, it's bad for your blade."

>SIGH< I know it's bad for my blade - but if I could see them, I wouldn't hit them. And here, I was planning on turning my backyard into a Zen garden, just so I could mow more rocks.

(04/02/07 - 9:54 AM)
I hope that everyone had a good April Fool's Day. I would like to thank my two victims, Jim and Gary, Sr. (on a hidden, family-only page), for their senses of humor. I love ya both, and appreciate that we know each other well enough to have fun. Thanks again for being such good sports; you guys rock.

(04/01/07 - 10:21 AM)
As part of our commitment to excellence, each April 1st, we interview someone that you don't know - someone you could care less about being interviewed. We interview that person, because we can and you're a captive audience.

This year, we interview Jim "Chickenhawk" Christie about his work and leisure time.

"Jim, thank you for agreeing to be here."

"Pfffft. I wouldn't be here at all, you bastard, if you didn't threaten to make my life at work even more miserable than you already do. So go on, ask your damn questions so I can go home and order take-out."

"Now Jim, just because I'm your boss doesn't mean that you have to be hostile about this."

"Yeah, yeah. Whatever. Questions, you said; so let's have them."

"Very well. So Jim, tell me a little about growing up in a coven. What was that like?"

>SIGH< "Why do you always make me tell THAT story. I think you're a pervert, that's what I think. Alright, I'll tell you again - it was alot of sloppy, naked women dancing around smelling like basil leaves and smoke, chanting and throwing chicken bones. In a nutshell, anyway."

"I see. And did it affect you mentally?"

"No. Well, yes. I guess a little. It might explain why I only want to date women with droopy breasts over the age of forty. I hadn't really thought about that until now."

"Mmm Hmm... Tell me about your first job."

"Dude, you know this already and... alright, alright; stop glaring at me, man. I was a roadkill worker for the highway department, alright? The guys who go around picking up dead stuff off the roads - that was me."

"Interesting. What made you leave such an illistrious career? It sounds like you had it all."

"I... Dude, I hate you. Alright, as you know, I was caught fornicating with a dead opossum. There, are you happy?"

"Oh my. Well, perhaps we can also chalk that up to your upbringing in the coven. I understand that you like off-road vehicles and hunting, tell me more about that."

"Oh, hell yeah. When the apocalypse comes, me and my survivalist buddies want to be ready. So we all built wheelin' trucks - you know, for when the Russkies or God or whoever comes along first blows up the roads; we'll still be able to drive around. We've also built up an arsenal of guns, the likes of which no casual hunter would ever own. We'll be ready, and I'll be laughing over your bloated corpse, baldy."

"Now, now. There's no call for that. Tell me about your one true love. The one you refer to in your manifesto as "neighbor girl."

>Tears welling in his eyes< "Hey, man. You said you wouldn't ask about her. I loved her. I mean, I never knew her name, but it was love all the same. It was the best six minutes of my life, and then she just moved away. Just like that. I still think about her whenever I drink, or see an abandoned grain silo."

"Uh, yes. Well, ahem. I hear that later this year, you and your partner will be coming out."

"Dude, that's business partner, and you didn't read the whole statement. That's coming out with a new line of sports drinks. They're called "Chooters". It's basically flavored tobacco spit concentrate, for the tobacco chewer on the go, who doesn't have the time to chew, but still wants the nicotine buzz. We think it's going to be a huge hit with the "stupid" demographic, which, as you've pointed out so many times in your blog, is a HUGE market waiting to be tapped one more time. I mean, after sales of the "AbLounge" started to slip, we knew that they would be looking for the next big thing to throw their money away on. We figure this is a natural.

"I hear that there might be a couple of game shows being pitched to the networks right now, is that true?"

"Oh, yeah. We've got two. One is called, "Am I your daddy?" It's where I meet up with girls that I haven't seen in years, and we mess with their kids heads for prizes. Of course, I've never had sex that, you know, ended - because of my condition. But hey, it's still fun letting those little fatherless kids think that I might be their dad. It's fulfilling in it's own way.

The other show is called, "Panty Guess". I go to restaurants, and try and guess what kind of panties the counter girl is wearing. If I guess, I get a free meal. If I'm wrong, they have to show me that I'm wrong. So it's win-win for me. Plus, it's more action than I see normally. And a heck alot more than you, fat man."

"Ahem. Yes. We're here to tweak your foibles, not mine."

"Screw that. I want the world to know what an arrogant bastard you are. Attention, America: this guy is a slave driver. 'It's the end of the week - I want everything shipped.' Or his other classic, 'It's the end of the month, I want everything shipped.'

And don't get me started on the day-to-day stuff. He just sits on his lily-white butt all day in his high-and-mighty office, while he treats us like Pharoh's slaves at the pyramid site. OoOoOoOo, big man. You jerk. I really hate you."

"Well, it looks like that's all the time that we have for this year. I would like to thank Jim "Chickenhawk" Christie for taking the time away from his inflatable hippo to be with us today - but I won't."

"I look forward to seeing all of you lucky readers of my blog next year for the second annual April Fool's Day interview. See you then!"

* Top Of Page

* Back To Current Blog Entries
* March, 2007 Entries
* February, 2007 Entries
* January, 2007 Entries
* September, 2006 Entries
* August, 2006 Entries
* The Plinky Page
* Paper or Plastic: The Cashier Chronicles
*The Mr. Phillips Screwdriver Chronicles